An unfair policy that fails on every test

Daily Mail Comment


23:36 GMT, 3 January 2013



14:59 GMT, 4 January 2013

Unfair: The new plan makes a mockery of David Cameron's oft-made promise to stand up for the traditional family

Unfair: The new plan makes a mockery of David Cameron's oft-made promise to stand up for the traditional family

On Monday, the Government’s wrong-headed, fiendishly-complicated plan to strip child benefit from 1.2million families will officially come into force.

The Mail has long argued this policy – which will remove the benefit altogether from couples where one person earns more than 60,000, yet leave untouched a household in which two parents earn up to 50,000 each – is grotesquely unfair on mothers who wish to stay at home to raise children.

It makes a mockery of David Cameron’s oft-made promise to stand up for the traditional family, punishes aspiration and, as we reveal today, will disproportionately impact on voters in the Tory heartlands.

Families in the more expensive South East, in particular, will be hit painfully hard by a change which, for a couple with three children, is the equivalent of a 4,000 pay cut. We remind ministers – so obsessed with lavishing ever more of our money on overseas aid – that, in the real world, this is a very significant amount to lose.

Predictably, the exercise is already showing every sign of turning into an administrative disaster so typical of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs.

Yesterday, in a show of mystifying insouciance, Exchequer Minister David Gauke insisted all was going to plan.

Yet, despite recruiting armies of extra staff, at huge expense to the taxpayer, HMRC has, in fact, failed to notify more than 300,000 of the households who will be affected.

And, through no fault of their own, these families now have only three days left to opt out of the child benefit system voluntarily.

Fail to do so, and the taxman will make them pay all the money back at the end of the year, via the self-assessment tax regime – a complex process which busy couples, unfamiliar with such stress, will understandably resent.

In his first budget, George Osborne quite rightly said any tax and benefits system needs to pass three tests: it must be simple; fair; and support work and those who do the right thing.

We fear the Chancellor may come to bitterly regret how – with his child benefit policy – he has failed on every count.

Falklands warning

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Yesterday, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner was engaged in yet another desperate act of sabre-rattling over the Falklands, which she accused Britain of seizing 180 years ago ‘in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism’.

Her populist tirade, which showed wilful disregard for history, was little more than a shameful attempt to deflect attention from the rampant inflation, crime and corruption that is causing her such electoral trouble at home.

But the British Prime Minister – who, of course, has presided over such deeply unsettling cuts in our Armed Forces – must remain ever vigilant.

Democracy, and the memory of the 255 British heroes who died for the cause of freedom in 1982, demand he must not give an inch to Argentina’s posturing president.

Cowardly silence

Four days have passed since the Mail first highlighted the gross obscenity and cruelty of much of the material on Channel 4’s Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2012.

Yet, despite significant public concern, and repeated requests from this paper, Channel 4’s Ofcom-appointed regulatory board has so far refused to provide any meaningful response to the furore.

If board members seriously consider such puerile, degrading content – which, provocatively, the broadcaster is intending to repeat tonight – an acceptable form of ‘light entertainment’, they should have the courage to say so.

By staying silent, they are behaving like cowards.